Skip to main content

Suit accuses Elmo puppeteer of crystal meth sex party

By Alan Duke, CNN
March 20, 2013 -- Updated 0037 GMT (0837 HKT)
Kevin Clash resigned from his job as the voice of Sesame Street's Elmo last November.
Kevin Clash resigned from his job as the voice of Sesame Street's Elmo last November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sheldon Stephens' suit accuses Kevin Clash of causing him psychological harm
  • Clash's lawyer says suit is "meritless and barred by the statute of limitations"
  • Stephens previously called it "an adult consensual relationship"
  • 3 other men using the same lawyer are suing Clash for similar reasons

(CNN) -- The puppeteer who gave Sesame Street's Elmo his voice allegedly threw a crystal meth sex party for a teenage boy in 2004, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week.

Sheldon Stephens, now 24, is the fourth man to sue Kevin Clash, but he was the first one to publicly claim he had a sexual relationship with him as a teen.

Stephens' lawsuit is "meritless and barred by the statute of limitations," Clash lawyer Michael Berger told CNN Tuesday. "Mr. Clash continues to deny any wrongdoing, and we intend to defend this case forcefully."

Although Stephens called it an "an adult consensual relationship" last November, the revelation triggered Clash's suspension from Sesame Street and eventually his resignation.

Voice of Elmo leaves 'Sesame Street'
Elmo puppeteer denies underage sex

Clash, who provided the high-pitched voice of the iconic furry red Elmo since 1984, acknowledged a relationship between "two consenting adults" when Stephens' story first emerged, but he said it otherwise was a "false and defamatory allegation."

"I am a gay man," Clash, 52, said in a statement in November. "I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter."

When heroes disappoint our kids

Three other men soon emerged with federal lawsuits, filed last November and December, accusing Clash of befriending them as teenager then engaging in sex with them. They are all represented by Florida lawyer Jeff Herman, who also filed Stephens' lawsuit Monday.

Clash's lawyer has asked a judge to dismiss the three other suits based on his argument that the men waited too long to sue. The federal statute of limitations on such civil cases is six years, while their allegations involve relationships that ended more than 10 years ago, Berger said in a court filing this month.

Each lawsuit contends that the men only realized in the last year or so that they suffered psychological and emotional damage from their encounters with Clash.

"Clash was an adult male living a prominent public life centered around the entertainment of toddlers, while at the same time he was, in secret, preying on teenage boys to satisfy his depraved sexual interests," the Stephens suit alleged.

While the allegations in the newest suit mirror what the other men contend, Stephens' complaint is the only one to allege drug use by Clash.

"Clash smoked crystal meth while engaging in sexual activity with Sheldon," the lawsuit said. "Clash also gave Sheldon 'poppers' as a sexual aide. While Clash had sexual contact with Sheldon, the chauffeur watched and masturbated." "Poppers" generally refers to alkyl nitrites in capsule form that produce a physical rush when broken and inhaled: crystal meth refers to crystal methamphetamine.

Stephens was 16 when he met Clash in New York "at a social networking event for models and actors," the suit said.

"Clash told Sheldon he would help Sheldon with his acting career," it said.

Clash resigned from his job on "Sesame Street" after the first lawsuit was filed in November.

"I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart," Clash said in a written statement at the time. "I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."

Despite his stepping down, Clash's voice will be used for Elmo through 2014, as the next season of "Sesame Street" has already been filmed.

CNN's Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT